How to stay awake after getting no sleep

October 7, 2020 4 mins read
How to stay awake after getting no sleep

Chances are if you’re a student, a new parent, or juggling late-night shifts, you’ve Googled how to stay awake. (And probably more than once).

When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain goes through withdrawal symptoms. Studies show that the prefrontal cortex, a region in the brain, receives less blood flow than usual. This translates as foggy thinking, irritability, sluggishness and forgetfulness.

The good news is that there are ways to stay awake after a sleepless night. So, while you eye the coffee machine, let’s explore.

How to stay awake during the day

Coffee will help, but it’s not the only way to keep your eyes open. We’ve listed a few activities that will help keep the sleepiness at bay – and get you feeling energised and alert. (Just in time for your meeting, next class or bottle feed).

Get some fresh air

The simple act of breathing in the fresh air will increase the flow of oxygen to your lungs and more blood flow to your brain. This will help with your sluggishness and improve your concentration, so get as much fresh air as you can!

Go for a walk

This has the same benefit as fresh air except here you’ll be doing something a bit more energetic. Light stretching and moving around helps to trigger the release of feel-good hormones equating to a sense of wellbeing and renewed energy.

Drink some caffeine

This is best done first thing in the morning to give your body a quick and longer-lasting boost, so cosy up with a cup of the good stuff. And if you’re wondering why caffeine is the go-to remedy to help you stay awake, that’s because it’s a stimulant which acts on the nervous system, sending signals to the brain to remain alert.

Drink lots of water

Staying hydrated increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and organs while stabilising your heart rate. When you don’t have your fill of water, you feel tired and fatigued as your heart works harder to pump oxygen throughout your body.

Daylight exposure

Ever heard of the body clock? It’s an internal, natural rhythm that our bodies use to signal to us when it’s time to wake and to sleep. Your body clock takes its cues from nature, so be sure to get as much natural sunlight as you can (preferably as early as you can) to help you stay awake.

How to stay awake all night

Sometimes pulling an all-nighter is unavoidable, especially if you have a test to crack or an urgent work assignment to submit. So to stay awake all night, you can follow some tried and tested methods to beat the night blues.

Take a nap during the day

Set aside at least 15 minutes of your day to take a quick snooze. A power nap will recharge your mind, sharpen your focus and reignite your spark so that you can face the night ahead.

Keep busy

While it might seem like you should be saving all your energy for the night, you’ll actually be doing yourself a great disservice. Doing nothing can make you feel tired as your body and mind go into a state of rest, making you feel lazy. Rather keep busy; walk the dog, send some emails, or go for a drive to keep your energy levels elevated.

Create a light environment

If you’re on a mini-sprint to stay awake for 48 hours, then being in a light environment will help. The more light your body is exposed to, the higher the chances of you staying awake. Light affects your body clock, fooling it into staying awake and alert.

Is no sleep better than a few hours?

The short answer is no. A full sleep cycle takes 90 minutes, during which your body and mind go through 5 stages of sleep. If you are in a position to get a couple of hours of rest in, by all means, go for it. Not getting any sleep will make you feel sleep-deprived, and getting through the day will be even tougher. So rather squeeze in some z’s to aid your mission of staying awake.

Long-term effects of sleepless nights

If going without sleep becomes a regular thing for you, then be warned it could lead to a host of negative short- and long-term side effects. We’re talking a weaker immune system, weight gain, impaired judgement, loss of motivation, and anxiety or depression.

And while it might be tempting to go without sleep anyway and make up for it later, your body will eventually feel the brunt of going back and forth between a full night’s rest and no sleep. So if you can help it, give yourself the recommended 7-9 hours of rest for your body to rejuvenate, heal and repair itself.